Austin Hanson, Sports Editor


When the Penn State Nittany Lions fell to the Indianan Hoosiers on Saturday afternoon, the team I believed to be the Big Ten Conference’s second-best got knocked down a peg.

For a team playing a limited, nine-game season aiming for a College Football Playoff berth, the Nittany Lions’ loss to Indiana was embarrassing and disappointing.

After Ohio State wiped the floor with Nebraska, their status as the Big Ten’s best team was cemented. So, the question remains, what team is second best in the Big Ten with Penn State losing that denomination?

To me, Michigan is the clear choice.

This year’s shortened Big Ten season is the epitome of a race to the finish line, and every game matters — that’s why Wisconsin can’t be the Big Ten’s second-best team. Graham Mertz’s positive COVID-19 test sidelines him for at least three games, per conference protocol.

With Jack Coan out due to injury and third-string quarterback Chase Wolf also testing positive for COVID-19, the Badgers will be turning to their fourth-string QB Danny Vanden Boom. While Mertz is out, Wisconsin will have to defeat two of the Big Ten’s most surprising teams in a three-week stretch — Purdue and Michigan. I don’t think Vanden Boom will be good enough to keep the Badgers afloat while he is at the helm.

So, with Wisconsin seemingly out of the picture, Michigan is the emergent team poised to be the Big Ten’s second best.

In a trophy game for the Little Brown Jug against a ranked Minnesota team on Saturday, Michigan rolled past the Golden Gophers, 49-24. The Wolverines’ breakout performance can be attributed to the efforts of quarterback Joe Milton. Milton threw for 225 yards and a touchdown, and ran for an additional 52 yards and one score.

When it seemed like the rest of the Big Ten faltered over the weekend, Michigan rose to the occasion, and that’s why it’s time to start believing in the Wolverines.